Pathologist Job Description

Pathology, which is the study of disease, dates back to ancient civilizations. Bodies were studied prior to burial to determine the cause of death. However, it remained a largely unscientific process until the mid-19th century when the microscope was invented. This allowed pathologists to study disease at the cellular level. This ability gave rise to the discovery of bacterial and viral infections, as well as the development of antibiotics and immunization.

A pathologist is concerned with the four basic elements of disease, which are cause, development, cellular change and clinical manifestations or symptoms. This study can be specialized further by focusing on one of the major systems of the body. It can also concentrate on specific fields. Some pathologists specialize in forensic pathology, which determines the cause of death. Others work in epidemic pathology, which studies massive outbreaks of illness.

Pathologists also play a major role in cancer research. The development of biomedical technology has enabled pathologists to detect disease in very early stages. The study of DNA and chromosomes has also allowed pathologists to determine the cause of many genetic illnesses.

Job Duties of a Pathologist:
  • Oversee the integrity of specimen collection and testing
  • Manage clinical laboratories
  • Provide written interpretation of test results
  • Advise physicians of test results and recommendations
  • Provide written biopsy results
  • Oversee the collection of blood and plasma at blood banks
  • Work with law enforcement officials and testify about lab results in court

How to Become a Pathologist

The training to become a pathologist begins with a bachelor’s degree. The student should either enroll in a pre-med program or have a science related major, such as biology or chemistry. It is also helpful for the student to volunteer at a community blood bank where they can shadow the pathologist in charge.

Once the student has graduated with a bachelor’s degree, they must then enroll in an accredited medical school. The first two years include advanced studies in chemistry, anatomy, biology and mathematics. The third and fourth years provide clinical studies in an actual hospital or clinic.

Upon completion of medical school, most states require the applicant to pass a written exam before proceeding with a residency program. There are two different tests, one of which is the United States Medical Licensing Exam and the other is the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam.

A residency program for pathology lasts four years. It includes comprehensive training in all the different fields of pathology. While completing requirements in clinical and anatomic pathology, autopsy, biochemistry, diagnostics, and imaging techniques, the resident may receive a stipend to help cover expenses. A pathologist who successfully completes this program must then complete a fellowship in either anatomic or forensic pathology.

Pathologist Salary

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Pathologist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the pathologist job description:
  • Physicians who study and diagnose disease
  • 4 year bachelor’s degree
  • 4 year medical school program
  • 4 additional years of residency program
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 18% employment growth by 2022